Thousands of returning fans and spectators enjoyed the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival over the weekend as it opened its doors to the public for the first time in two years since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival featured a live concert by local rock group Bunkface on Saturday, on top of the many ground activities that included numerous sales, promotional and activity booths, and an urban street dining area serving up delicious local cuisines and delicacies.
Sunday morning began with an All-Wheel Fest where hundreds of participants, including families and children, were allowed access to the Sepang International Circuit for a spin on their bicycles, push scooters, roller blades and skateboards. Even runners were granted access to the track.
The official opening ceremony of the festival comprised of a grid walkabout for fans and spectators, and later a procession of all the Toyota Vios race cars taking part. The day ended on a high note with an energetic performance by popular Indonesian singer Judika as a special treat for fans.
“We would like to thank all the spectators and fans who came to the festival. The enthusiasm and the level of excitement we witnessed have certainly motivated us to now begin planning for a more exciting Round 3 and Season 5 finale for them in September,” said UMW Toyota Motor President Ravindran K.
In the sporting class, it was M7 Japan Project Team’s Mohammed Fariqe Hairuman who made the best of his pole position to lead a fiercely-contested front pack that involved no less than six drivers. That lead, however, only lasted for two laps before Axle Motorsport’s Hayden Haikal shot past Mohammed Fariqe for the lead with Laser Motor Racing’s Mark Darwin in tow.
Although many spectators were expecting it to end as a two-car battle for first place, Tengku Djan Ley Tengku Mahaleel and his Prima Pearl TD Racing car started posting the fastest time on almost every lap, whereby he eventually made his way up from 12th position on the starting grid to win the race 1.5 seconds ahead of Darwin, with Hayden crossing the finish line in the third position.
Having missed the first two races of the season due to COVID-19, Tengku Djan will only have three more races remaining in the season to defend and capture his fourth overall Super Sporting Class title.
“I have to be optimistic. When I missed Round 1 I knew it will be difficult to contend for the championship. But I have teammate Mitchell Cheah and therefore I’m definitely going to be working with him to make sure he has a fair chance at the championship.” said Tengku Djan.
The gentlemen and amateur drivers in the Sporting Class also put up an incredible show on the track with Axle Motorsport’s Naquib Azlan concluding a perfect race weekend with two race wins.
Finishing second and perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was 23 Motors’ Abdul Miqail, followed by M7 Japan Project Team’s Ahmad Tarmimi Tahang.
Starting from sixth position on the grid following a reverse grid format after yesterday’s Race 1 victory, Naquib was on a very determined charge from the get-go, seizing control of the race lead and building a five-second gap from as early as the third lap of the 20-lap race.
Ahmad Tarmimi was also the biggest gainer, climbing from ninth to third place, but the highlight of the race was the performance of 16-year-old Abdul Miqail, who also finished on the podium twice in two races this weekend.
In the Rookie Class, Muhammad Hamdany clinched his first-ever race victory to retain his sterling record of four podium finishes in four races. The 19-year-old karter from Kuching, Sarawak finished ahead of simulator racer Nabil Azlan, and the only female driver in the Vios Challenge series, Adele Lew came in third.
As usual, there was a lot of drama in the promotional class, as actors Zizan Razak and Shukri Yahaya did not run away with the 18-lap race as predicted.
Instead, Nabil Ahmad took the race lead after Zizan had technical issues with his transmission, which forced him to concede five places with three laps to finish. Shukri was the first to take full advantage of Zizan's misfortune, but would later suffer a similar fate.
Singer Wany Hasrita and actress Janna Nick blazed past the pair of Zizan and Shukri to clinch second and third positions, respectively. Finishing fourth was singer Nabila Razali, while Shukri and Zizan crossed the line in fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
TV personality Ahirine Ahirudin claimed seventh place and TV host Ain Edruce finished eighth while singer Khai Bahar concluded a disappointing race weekend with a retirement.
“This is my first podium finish in two seasons. I started from pole position and sitting there waiting for the green starting lights to come on, I prayed for a good race. It was indeed a very good race and I am extremely thankful, despite facing numerous challenges on the track from going off the track, accidentally hitting, and being hit by others,” said an elated Janna.
Round 3 of the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival and Vios Challenge is scheduled for September. For more information, visit the UMW Toyota Motor (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd website at www.toyota.com.my.